After heavy negotiations among legislators, counties, pharmaceutical companies, and other key stakeholders, this session’s “drug take back” legislation, House Bill 3273 passed the House floor on June 25 by a vote of 56 to 3. While this is a huge stride forward for this Association of Oregon Counties’ (AOC) supported bill, there is still one more step for the bill to take before it advances to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. It must first go to the Senate floor for a vote. 

Senate Republicans have agreed to return before the Constitutionally mandated sine die (June 30), and will be back in the building to clear a backlog of more bills on June 29, the day before adjournment. 

After great uncertainty, and in the heat of negotiation, several counties including Clackamas, Lane, Multnomah, and Washington began working on programs for their own communities. 

Washington County was the first in the state to enact a countywide drug take back ordinance. The ordinance passed unanimously and became effective June 6, but has yet to be implemented. In a May press release, Washington County Board of Commissioners Chair, Kathryn Harrington was quoted with the following statement, “Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the country, and we are certainly not immune from this epidemic here in Washington County…with this new ordinance, we hope to reduce addiction and the harm it causes families and individuals by making the safe disposal of medicine easier for every member of our community.”

The Washington County ordinance uses an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model, akin to initiatives used to address disposal of excess paint and electric equipment recovery from waste streams. Washington County’s program similar to the policies adopted in Washington state, California, and New York. Washington County’s ordinance applies to both over-the-counter and prescription medications, and requires drug manufacturers that sell their products in Washington County to provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unused medicines.

HB 3273 is a product of several sessions of negotiations spearheaded by Representative Sheri Schouten (D- Beaverton). AOC Legal Counsel, Rob Bovett worked closely with Schouten to craft legislation that works well for Oregon counties, especially as plans for county programs are advancing. 

After many hiccups along the way, the final version of the bill requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop and implement a program allowing for consumers to safely return unused over-the-counter and prescription medications for proper disposal. In the negotiation process, details surrounding cost allocation among the pharmaceutical industry became contentious. Ultimately, the bill left it up to the industry to allocate costs among themselves, as is the case in the State of Washington.  Generic drug manufacturers sought an amendment to allocate fifty percent of the costs based on sales receipts, not just volume of pills. But those amendments failed to be incorporated into the bill.

As final amendments were considered in the capital construction subcommittee, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton) commented on the bill and negotiations, “I’m very supportive of the base bill here, and I’m very disappointed about the way it played out about how it was going to get paid for. While I recognize that the majority by volume of drugs that are prescribed in this state are from generic manufacturers, I think it is a canard that it’s going to be ridiculously expensive if you figure out a better way to pay for it. And there was a reasonable proposal put forward that was originally adopted into this measure. I’m frustrated and disappointed that the pharmaceutical industry is behaving the way it is.” Steiner Hayward continued her comments, noting an alternative proposal would have spread costs evenly among the 400 manufacturers subject to the policy, equating to a price tag of about eight thousand dollars per manufacturer.

The bill also preempts local programs, including the newly enacted Washington County program. Washington County submitted a letter in support of the bill calling out the program as a critical investment in public health and safety.

If the bill, in the tight timeline before Session’s close does not pass the Senate floor, the current version will likely serve as the new baseline for negotiations in future sessions.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate